Drones to Become a Reality in the Real Estate Industry

The Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration proposed a long-awaited framework of regulations for flying small unmanned aircraft systems

Washington, D.C.—On Sunday, the Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration proposed a long-awaited framework of regulations for flying small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). Drones are currently used on a very limited basis for law enforcement, national security and scientific purposes. Commercial use for drones—including real estate marketing—is currently prohibited (except on a case-by-case basis), but it looks like change is in sight.

The new regulations will apply to drones weighing less than 55 pounds. The proposal highlights that the individual flying the UAS needs to get a private pilot’s license and would be called an “operator.”  This person must be at least 17 years old and in order to maintain the license must pass the FAA knowledge tests every 24 months. The operator must keep the commercial UAS away from bystanders and fly it only during the daytime. The draft also limits flying speed to 100 miles per hour and no higher than 500 feet above ground level. The drone must always be in direct sight of the operator. The operator must stay out of airport flight paths and restricted airspace areas, and obey any FAA Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFRs). There is also extensive discussion regarding the idea of an additional, more flexible framework for “micro” UAS under 4.4 pounds.

The National Association of Realtors is fully supporting the proposal. NAR President Chris Polychron said it is “good news for property owners and realtors who desire to embrace cutting-edge technology to enhance the process of buying and selling real estate with images gathered by unmanned aerial vehicles. Information, videos and photos captured using UAV technology will provide residential and commercial property buyers and sellers with more information and visual insights than they’ve ever had before.”

The real estate industry is itching to get its hands on UAS, as cameras aboard drones will bring a new set of eyes to the industry. Drones’ capabilities allow agents and property managers to obtain views not otherwise available to prospective buyers. Additionally, they would come in handy for inspecting roofs, pipes and overall property.

“Drones are a new and exciting technology, with the potential to affect numerous areas of the multifamily business–including marketing, package delivery and even more creative uses,” Paula Cino, vice president for construction, development and land use policy of the National Multifamily Housing Council told MHN. “While the apartment industry is considering the opportunities that drones present, we are also mindful of how this issue could impact the privacy and security of our residents. As a relatively new technology, it’s difficult to determine how drones will affect our members or the residents of the communities our members own and manage.”

The appeals process and rule-making revisions could take years. Until the new regulations come into full effect, the use of commercial drones will continue to be permitted only on a case-by-case basis through applications to the FAA.